How to: make tempera paint

Published 25 May 2021

Have a go at making your own paint with eggs, make-up, spices and chalk.

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    Have you ever eaten a runny egg for breakfast, then struggled to scrub the plate clean? Egg yolks are fast-drying and a strong binder, which makes them perfect for making paint!

    In fact, egg tempera is such a long-lasting paint medium that there are still well-preserved paintings from the first century AD.

    Artists would collect pigments from all around the world. A common red pigment is made from grinding up Cochineal beetles that live on prickly pear cacti in South America. Some blue pigments were more expensive than gold because they are made from crushing rare stones which can only be found in Afghanistan. Some art historians claim that Royal Academician J.M.W. Turner used a yellow pigment from mango-fed cow urine. Yuck!

    • What you need

      • An egg

      • Water

      • Pigments

      • Pestle and mortar

      • Paper or card

      • Paintbrush

      • Paper towel

      • Teaspoon

      • A palette

      How to egg materials
    • How to egg step 0

      Step 1

      Search for pigments around your house. Pigments are a coloured powder. We have used:

      • Spices, like turmeric and paprika.

      • Make-up blush.

      • Chalks.

      Get creative and see what you can find.

    • How to egg step 1

      Step 2

      Some materials like chalk might need to be ground into a powder by using a mortar and pestle.

      Add these pigments to dishes or a paint palette. We used an empty egg carton.

    • How to egg step 4

      Step 3

      Crack an egg and carefully separate the yolk. Pass the yolk from hand to hand, removing any excess egg-white with a paper towel. Then pinch the egg-yolk sac and dribble the yolk into a small dish, discarding the sac.

    • How to egg step 6

      Step 4

      Add 5 teaspoons of water and mix with the yolk. If you have white vinegar, add a few drops to the mixture and it will keep fresher for longer.

    • How to egg step 7

      Step 5

      Spoon a little of the egg and water mixture into the powdered pigment and mix. The consistency should be like heavy cream.

      Remember, this dries very fast so only make a little bit at a time.

    • How to egg step 8

      Step 6

      Get painting with your homemade egg tempera!

    • Admire your work!

      Next time you are visiting an art gallery, have a look to see if you can find any Egg Tempera paintings. You may just be surprised by some egg-cellent work.

      Whatever you do, share your creations with us @royalacademyarts on Instagram and @royalacademy on Twitter using the hashtag #FamilyHowTo!

      How to egg step 9
    • Family studio: flower power

      Families at the RA

      Whether it’s a free drop-in workshop or one of our fun and engaging Art Detective trails, the RA is brimming with colourful paintings and sculptures that are waiting to be explored. Everyone is welcome at the RA – and kids under 16 go free to all our exhibitions.

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